Experimental and epidemiologic investigations in alcoholic and nonalcoholic populations have suggested a role of alcohol in lung carcinogenesis. The association between alcohol consumption and lung cancer was investigated among 280 White males with histologically confirmed, primary lung cancer and 564 White male controls, participants in the Western New York Diet Study (United States). Among heavy smokers (over 40 pack-years), total alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer with adjustment for age, years of education, pack-years of cigarette smoking, and intake of carotenoids and fat. In this group, the odds ratio for drinkers of more than 24 drinks per month was 1.6 compared with those who drank less. Drinkers of more than 12 beers per month were 1.6 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nondrinkers of beer after controlling for age, years of education, and cigarette smoking (95 percent confidence interval = 1.0-2.4, P for trend = 0.003). Occupational and dietary factors did not seem to explain these findings. Although cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer, the role of alcohol, independent or in interaction with cigarette smoking, deserves further investigation.